The Beaux-Arts Style

The beaux-arts style of architecture dominate the architecture of public buildings from 1890 to 1920 because the style was first popularized during the well attended Columbian Exposition of 1893. This style was to be emulated by many entities far and wide. The term “Beaux Arts” refers to the American Renaissance period from about 1890 to 1920 and encompasses the French Renaissance, the Italian Renaissance, and the neoclassical Revivals.

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In addition, most of the leading American architects of that period had been academically trained many of whom had trained at Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris.

These facts, together with the fact that America was emerging as a dynamic industrially powerful nation and was becoming a world power at the same time, were proof that America had arrived. Added together, these facts pushed the citizens of the nation to desire architectural proofs of their aspirations and desire to prove to the word that America was a cultural and political equal to any nation in the world. The Beaux-Arts style is extravagant reflecting the attitude and taste of the industrial barons of this pre-tax era. Their homes were flamboyant and theatrical reflecting a desire to flaunt their wealth.
The Beaux-Arts style fits this desire precisely. These industrialists gave commissions to these architects to build their sumptuous residencies in fashionable neighborhoods and exclusive summer enclaves. These grand houses reflected the desire for “conspicuous consumption. ” This spirit of grandeur prompted many cities to erect grand public buildings as well. Every city aspired to outdo its neighbor. The American dream was to emulate the lead of the industrialists and proclaim their wealth and solidity. Public libraries, train stations, town halls, courthouses, office buildings, even prisons manifested this grandeur.
Because this style is classical in nature but grand in scale, the buildings are more extravagant. This style is theatrical. Elaborate moldings, pilasters, wreaths, garlands, festoons, dentils, cartouches and figure sculpture all are a part of this style. This proclaims to the world power and wealth. Exactly what the era was about. This reflected what the nation’s psyche was about during this period. Bold, new, powerful, and wealthy. This nation was finally a force to be reckoned with. No longer a colonial appendage, but a country equal to any and all.

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